Other Voices

Fort Worth should expand its City Council to 10 districts

The Fort Worth City Council voted in February to put charter amendments including expansion to 10 council districts on the May 7 ballot, but some council members voice their objections to expansion.
The Fort Worth City Council voted in February to put charter amendments including expansion to 10 council districts on the May 7 ballot, but some council members voice their objections to expansion. Star-Telegram

In the May 7 special election, Fort Worth residents have a fundamental choice: Do we want sprawling, rapidly growing City Council districts, or do we want to keep our city’s hometown feel with manageable council districts where neighborhood voices still matter?

A citizens’ committee of respected residents looked in depth at the issue of expanding our City Council from eight districts to 10 and made recommendations to improve upon our current structure.

They listened to community concerns at length, and I believe they have made reasonable compromises that balance the many successful aspects of Fort Worth governance with beneficial improvements, which included expanding the council to 10 districts.

By expanding to 10 manageable districts, our council will be more open and accessible to the average resident.

Since we moved to single-member districts in 1970, the city population has exploded to over 800,000 — and we are still growing!

To put it plainly, Fort Worth council members and their staff are some of the hardest-working folks in Cowtown! The strain of constituent needs versus time and resources has been steadily increasing.

Their hard work for this city is greatly appreciated, but increasing demands from an expanding population can make things unnecessarily difficult. Our residents, our council members and council staff deserve a more manageable workload.

This can be achieved through a Fort Worth approach to promote smaller, smarter and more accessible government.

Unfortunately, during the City Council discussion on expansion, some of the language used by members of the council sounded disrespectful.

Many community members have expressed concern to me that the council’s discussion on this topic minimized and denied the community’s concerns and dismissed them as trivial.

These issues stated by leaders in our community were not imaginary or trivial.

During my City Council campaign in 2012, it was extremely difficult for me to be viewed as anything other than “the Hispanic candidate.”

As some council members know personally, candidates of color running for office face unique challenges.

Racially polarized voting is a reality recognized by many political science studies. A cursory Internet search will return every affirmation you need.

In a growing and diverse city, we must strive to overcome our base predispositions and to share a place at the table for all communities.

We do not have to speculate. Fort Worth has 200-plus years of history to look back upon.

Since 1972, only three Hispanic candidates have been elected to the City Council, and all have been from the same district.

Similarly, African-American council members have all come from the same districts. We can do better.

If City Council expansion is approved by voters, this change should not be delayed until 2023, as has been suggested by some.

More than 40 years have passed since Fort Worth voters approved changing to single-member districts, and when the community pushed for council expansion in 2011, it was rebuffed.

Since then, five years have passed and yet another attempt to postpone this move for eight additional years has arisen.

Positive change should not be put off any longer. A City Council structure that will be more representative of our community should not be further delayed.

The people of Fort Worth have waited long enough.

State Rep. Ramon Romero represents Fort Worth’s District 90 in the Texas House.

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